Category Archives: General

Scout Meeting Activities as Presented in Scouting Magazine

Here are some ideas to put outdoor skills into action at Scout meetings

Outdoor skills aren’t just for the monthly campout. There are plenty of ways your Scouts can hone their outdoor skills on a regular basis, like during unit meetings.

Here is this week’s tip that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee shared with us. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below. For previous camp hacks and tips from the subcommittee, click here.


Once Scouts can demonstrate an acquired skill, they should be given opportunities to do something fun with it that provides a challenge that illustrates how the skill is used, and an opportunity requiring them to rely upon the skill in order to complete the task.

When properly planned, well-prepared, and effectively presented, these kinds of engaging activities contribute greatly to making a Scout meeting fun with positive outcomes.

Putting skills into action keeps Scouts involved, requires them to use teamwork, and provides the grounds for experiencing success. Bringing skills to life during a troop meeting in a manner that nearly simulates the way they’re used in the field, is always a good way to reinforce what Scouts learn, while honing their skills to keep them sharp.

Here are some fun activities and games your Scouts can do while incorporating skills they’ve learned:

50-Foot Rescue Relay

Hitching Race

Taut-line Hitch Race

Reactor Transporter Challenge

For more team-building activities and skills challenges, click here.

Double A-Frame Monkey Bridge as Presented in Scouting Magazine

Teach your Scouts how to build a monkey bridge

Scouting founder Robert Baden-Powell believed every Scout should know how to build bridges. From designing the structure to gathering materials and putting it all together, bridge construction combines technology, teamwork and enthusiasm to complete a span that is memorable and useful.

A bridge on a hiking trail can be as simple as a log across a narrow gap. A more serious one relies on sturdier materials like rope and poles. A rope bridge Baden-Powell described in his 1908 manual, Scouting for Boys, is what today’s Scouts would call a monkey bridge.

Monkeying around

This is a classic pioneering project, and a variety of styles and instructions have been shared many times, from a 1965 Boys’ Life article penned by Scouting leader and author William “Green Bar Bill” Hillcourt to various editions of the Pioneering merit badge pamphlet.

If Scouts don’t have a stream or small gully to cross, they can build the bridge in a meadow or backyard. Follow safety rules, ensuring the foot rope is no higher than 6 feet off the ground and no longer than 25 feet between A-frames. Using a 50-foot rope, the maximum span between A-frames should be 20 feet, with the extra length being used for anchoring the bridge.

Before building any pioneering structure, it’s necessary to first acquire the wherewithal to experience success. The skills, along with the lashing ropes and poles required to build a monkey bridge using double A-frames for better stability, can be used time and again, for a variety of pioneering projects and troop meeting activities. Here’s how to build a monkey bridge.

Materials

  • Eight 8-foot-by-4-inch A-frame legs
  • Four 6-foot-by-3-inch ledgers
  • 14 15-foot lashing ropes for square lashings (Use 14-inch manila for all lashing ropes.)
  • Six steel rings or locking carabiners to join grommet and rope tackle
  • Two 12-inch-by-10-foot polypropylene ropes for rope grommets
  • Binder twine to create loops for tourniquets
  • Six 10-foot lashing ropes for round lashings
  • Two 12-inch-by-50-foot hand ropes
  • One 12-inch- or 34-inch-by-50-foot foot rope
  • Five to seven 8-foot lashing ropes for stringers
  • 12 24- to 30-inch-by-212-inch pioneering stakes for two 3-2-1 anchors
  • Two pieces of scrap burlap for saddles

1Begin by building four identical A-frames with the 8-foot and 6-foot spars. Make sure the A-frames are all uniform in size when lashed together. Lash them together with three tight square lashings. You could also use shear lashings at the top of the A-frames.

2. Once you have four identical A-frames, it’s time to make two pairs of double A-frames. Stand up two A-frames so they overlap each other one-half their length (about 3  feet). Join the legs together where they intersect with a tight square lashing. Finally, lash the two 6-foot bottom ledgers together where they overlap with three tight round lashings. Do the same for the other double A-frame.

3. Drive the pioneering stakes into the ground first with three stakes together, then two, and then one. Use loops of binder twine and a small stick in between each set to form a tourniquet. Both 3-2-1 anchors should be installed about 10 feet from where the A-frames will be erected. Place a rope grommet around the front stakes, before applying the tourniquet joining the three front stakes to the middle two.

4Position the double A-frames no more than 20 feet apart from each other. Lay the foot and hand ropes alongside the A-frames. Attach the stringer ropes to a hand rope with a clove hitch at 3- to 4-foot intervals along the hand rope. Make roundturns around the foot rope and tie the running ends of the stringer ropes to the other hand rope with a clove hitch.

5. Make two saddles by folding pieces of burlap, placing one above the square lashings in the middle of the double A-frames where they intersect. This is where the foot rope will rest.

6. With the double A-frames held in place on each side, place the foot rope over the saddles, and tie the hand ropes to the top of the A-frames with clove hitches on a bight.

7. About halfway between the anchor and the A-frames, tie a butterfly knot in the foot rope to form a fixed loop for a rope tackle (trucker’s hitch). With Scouts still holding the double A-frames in position, use the rope tackles to put strain on the foot rope. Next, pull the hand ropes tight and attach them to the anchors using rope tackle or roundturns with two half-hitches.

8. Once all the ropes are tightened, check the knots and lashings before crossing the bridge. Allow only one person on the bridge at a time.

Bridging the gap

Scouts can celebrate their bridge’s completion by crossing it and reflecting on how the project came together. What went well? What would they do differently next time? What roles did teamwork and leader-ship play in the project?

After it has served its purpose, the bridge can be dismantled: The ropes can be coiled and stored with the poles in a dry place, ready to bring out for the next pioneering project.

Helping Scouts realize they have the power to plan and construct big projects is a practical way to bridge the gap between the promise of Scouting adventure and fulfilling that promise in the field.


Robert Birkby is author of three editions of The Boy Scout Handbook, two editions of the BSA’s Fieldbook and the newest edition of the Conservation Handbook. Find him at robertbirkby.com

Special thanks to Larry Green

Scout Skill Activities as presented in Bryan on Scouting

Here are some ideas to put outdoor skills into action at Scout meetings

Outdoor skills aren’t just for the monthly campout. There are plenty of ways your Scouts can hone their outdoor skills on a regular basis, like during unit meetings.

Here is this week’s tip that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee shared with us. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below. For previous camp hacks and tips from the subcommittee, click here.


Once Scouts can demonstrate an acquired skill, they should be given opportunities to do something fun with it that provides a challenge that illustrates how the skill is used, and an opportunity requiring them to rely upon the skill in order to complete the task.

When properly planned, well-prepared, and effectively presented, these kinds of engaging activities contribute greatly to making a Scout meeting fun with positive outcomes.

Putting skills into action keeps Scouts involved, requires them to use teamwork, and provides the grounds for experiencing success. Bringing skills to life during a troop meeting in a manner that nearly simulates the way they’re used in the field, is always a good way to reinforce what Scouts learn, while honing their skills to keep them sharp.

Here are some fun activities and games your Scouts can do while incorporating skills they’ve learned:

50-Foot Rescue Relay

Hitching Race

Taut-line Hitch Race

Reactor Transporter Challenge

For more team-building activities and skills challenges, click here.

Setting up a simple dining fly as presented in Bryan on Scouting

Here’s a simple way of setting up a dining fly in an open field

A dining fly is one of the first structures you should put up at camp. But what if you’re in an area away from trees, how do you secure one?

For the next couple of weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week’s tip involves how to set up a dining fly. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.


In the Camping merit badge pamphlet, under the “Managing Your Campsite” section, it reads, “Set up a dining fly first. That will provide shelter for food and you in case of rain, and will give a sense of where you will center most of your camp activities.”

It’s a regular practice that the dining fly is the first thing to go up and the last thing to come down. Here’s one simple way for a patrol to set up their fly when there are no trees for the ridge line.

  1. Layout the tarp and attach a guyline to each corner with two half-hitches or a bowline.
  2. Pound in stakes five feet away and at a 45-degree angle from each corner of the tarp.
  3. Apply a taut-line hitch between the stakes and the tarp’s corner grommets.
  4. On each side, join two Scout staves together with two round lashings for the upright poles.
  5. Secure a ridge line to the upright poles with a series of half hitches.
  6. With the ends of the ridge line attached to their stakes, the tarp is raised and tension on the guylines is adjusted.

Watch these videos for techniques and tips below.

 

Clove Hitch as presented in Bryan on Scouting

Here’s a tip to help your Scouts remember how to tie a clove hitch

Did you know a clove hitch is essentially two simple knots? When your Scout is tying lashings, all they need to know to create a clove hitch is how to tie a half-hitch.

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week, we’re showing you how to tie a clove hitch, which is used to begin and end many lashings. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.


John Thurman, the Camp Chief at Gilwell Park in England for more than 25 years, wrote, “The first and everlasting thing to remember about the clove hitch is that it is composed of two half-hitches.”

  1. If you make one half-hitch…
  2. and then an identical half-hitch…
  3. and bring them together, you form a clove hitch.
  4. The identical half-hitches can be formed in any direction. This is a good thing, because many lashings need to be finished from either one direction or the other.
  5. First half-hitch (finishing a shear lashing).
  6. Second half-hitch.
  7. Both half-hitches are brought together.

When a clove hitch is formed in this manner, snugging it right against the wraps to finish a lashing is easy.

Watch the video of this technique below.

Square Lashing as presented in Bryan on Scouting

As presented in Bryan on Scouting:

Always tie a square knot correctly with this tip

Tying a square knot might be confusing for Scouts. “Right-over-left” or was it “left-over-right?”

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week’s tip involves a technique to tying a square knot correctly every time. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.


The square knot, also known as the reef knot, is first and foremost a binding knot. Its primary function is to secure a line tightly up against an object as when tying a bandage, a package or the flaps of a wall tent at camp.

When it’s time to tie a square knot, there’s a surefire way to always tie it right, and all you need to do is use your eyes.

  1. Tie the first half-knot.
  2. Position the ends so the blue end projects down on one side, and the red end extends up on the other side. It’s as if each end has its own area — like each is in their own “zone.” That’s where they need to stay.
  3. When the ends are brought together to form the second half-knot, they don’t enter the other “zone” by crossing behind the other end. They just meet in the middle. The knot is finished by carrying either end over and around the other.
  4. It makes no difference how the first half-knot is tied (over-under or under-over, right-over-left or left-over-right).
  5. When bringing the ends together to form the second half-knot, keep them in their own “zones.” Don’t cross over into the other end’s area.
  6. This way, you’ll always tie a square knot, and never a granny knot.

Tying a square knot from this visual perspective comes in handy, because often Scouts will lose track of whether they went over-under or under-over, or right-over-left or left-over-right. Once they get the knack of seeing how each end stays in its own “zone,” this approach is fool-proof.

Watch the video of this technique below.

Half Knot (West Country) Whipping as presented in Bryan on Scouting

As presented in Bryan on Scouting:

Try this easy technique next time you need to whip a rope

Whipping a rope can be a little tricky. If your Scout is struggling with the traditional method, you can teach them another way, called “West Country whipping.”

For the next few weeks, we’ll be sharing some camp hacks that the BSA’s national camping subcommittee has shared with us. This week’s tip involves an easier way to whip a rope. Special thanks to Larry Green for the tips and text below.


Preventing the ends of rope from fraying is a process referred to as “whipping.” Learning how to whip the ends of a rope is one of the early requirements on the Scouts BSA advancement trail.

Indeed, there are many approaches to whipping a rope, but the one that’s used for the hundreds of lashing ropes in the pioneering area at national jamborees, as well as the 2019 World Scout Jamboree, is known as the West Country Whipping. What’s so special about this whipping? The answer is simple. It’s easy to teach and easy to tie, and most importantly, it’s easy to make tight. Hence, Scouts learn it more quickly and like it much better.

    1. Start by tying a half-knot, the way you would start a square knot, near the rope’s end.
    2. Continue by carrying the two ends of the whipping cord around the back of the rope, away from you, and tie another half-knot identical to the first.
    3. Keep repeating the half-knots, front and back, pulling each one tight.
    4. Form each half-knot the same way, either right over left, or left over right, so they interlock neatly together, and snug against the previous half-knot.
    5. Continue the process until the whipping is as wide as the rope’s diameter.
    6. Finish off with a tight square knot.
    7. Finally, the excess cord is trimmed.

Watch the video of this technique below.

Check out an easier way to whip a rope that holds much better!

Preventing the ends of rope from fraying is a process referred to as “whipping.” Learning how to whip the ends of a rope is one of the early requirements on the Scouts BSA advancement trail.

Indeed there are many approaches to whipping a rope, but the one that’s used for the hundreds of lashing ropes in the pioneering area at national jamborees, as well as the 2019 World Jamboree, is known as the West Country Whipping. What’s so special about this whipping? The answer is simple. It’s easy to teach and easy to tie, and most importantly, it’s easy to make tight! Hence, Scouts learn it more quickly and like it much better.

1. Start by tying a half knot, the way you would start a square knot, near the rope’s end.

2. Continue by carrying the two ends of the whipping cord around the back of the rope, away from you, and tie another half knot identical to the first.

3. Keep repeating the half knots, front and back, pulling each one tight.

4. Form each half knot the same way, either right over left, or left over right, so they interlock neatly together, and snug against the previous half knot.

5. Continue the process until the whipping is as wide as the rope’s diameter.

6. Finish off with a tight square knot.

7. Finally, the excess cord is trimmed. VIEW THE HOW-TO VIDEO

—> Sailmaker’s Whipping (stays put even under hard use)

Delivering the Goods

Of course you’ve gotta love this (and all) Norman Rockwell paintings, but this one is always timely, and perhaps now more than ever. The kind of Scouting adventure that younger Scouts can look forward to needs to be evidenced by the troops they observe. And then of course, that “Promise of Scouting” NEEDS to be delivered!

Membership in what used to be called the Boy Scouting division is down, and has been diminishing for many years. With the advent of girls joining what is now referred to as Scouts BSA, there’s still a VERY IMPORTANT principle that should never be (and should never have been) neglected. That is: troops should actively engage in, and on a regular basis demonstrate in the public eye, timeless, traditional outdoor skills.

Just like for the Cub Scout depicted in the painting, it’s these traditional outdoor adventures that embody the promise of Scouting, and experiencing them require the acquisition of the basic, and always relevant skills. Obviously, when the youngster in the painting is old enough to join those older guys, he’s going to have numerous experiences that give rise to rich Scouting memories. And, he won’t drop out. Why would he? Look at the size of those actively involved individuals clad in khaki! And, look how they’re actively involved in an experience laced with challenges and fun!

The Diamond Hitch

The Diamond Hitch was many times more prevalent a couple of decades past, and was featured throughout a range of Scout publications. It’s not actually associated with Scout Pioneering, but it’s still an example of nifty rope work. Though there’s not nearly as many packboards in use today, the Diamond Hitch still can serve as the most practical approach to securing a bundle to an object, even in today’s modern world of bungee cords and the like. The following diagram and description was scanned from the ’76 printing of the 1967 Fieldbook.

What Pioneering Merit Badge SHOULD Be!

“Pioneering is practical and character building: the two essential ingredients of any program material for Scouts.” (Lord Baden-Powell)

Mew Top Montage

Pioneering Merit Badge, which as we all know used to be required for Eagle, should give Scouts a taste of pioneering! Of course they should be taught about safety and gain some general knowledge, but much more importantly, they should be introduced to the Scouting traditions and the fun that this activity embodies. They should DO pioneering!

SIngle Trestle Montage

Taking part in building pioneering projects contributes to the development of self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment. It necessitates working hard and working together towards a common goal. Besides being really cool and impressing people in and out of Scouting, building a real pioneering structure requires the mastery of a set of useful Scout skills that can be applied over a lifetime of outdoor activities—activities for both work and recreation.

A-Frame Bridge 5

Pioneering Merit Badge should be presented as a series of planned challenges and opportunities leading up to memorable experiences that are rewarding and unique. The recipients of this merit badge should be inspired to share their acquired skills and the fun they had with other Scouts in their unit.

Bridge Building

As Gilwell Park Camp Chief, John Thurmann  stated, “To me, the over-riding reason for presenting Pioneering is that boys like it. There are few activities which, properly presented, have a greater appeal to the Scout than Pioneering and ever since the introduction of Wood Badge training, Pioneering has been given a full share in the program of Scouters’ training. In the summer months when Scouters at Gilwell are building bridges, towers, and rafts, and boys are in camp, it has been all too common to hear from the boys such remarks as, ‘I wish we did that in our Troop’ or ‘We never do anything like that’.”

Tower Montage

But there are reasons for Pioneering other than the fact that Scouts like doing it. B.-P. wrote: “I am inclined to suggest to Scouters that in addition to the technical details of knotting, lashing, and anchorages, there is an educative value in Pioneering since it gives elementary training in stresses, mensuration, etc., and it also develops initiative and resourcefulness to use local material. Additionally, it gives practice in team work and discipline.” In other words, (“Pioneering is practical and character building: the two essential ingredients of any program material for Scouts.”)

CHippewa Montage

Japanese Mark II Square Lashing in Boy Scout Handbook!

After being excluded in all previous editions, the 13th Edition of The Boy Scout Handbook features the Japanese Mark II Square Lashing—a very good thing! Referred to simply as “The Mark II Square Lashing,” it’s included along with the other lashings in Chapter 12.

Many different things, both big and small, contribute to increasing the BSA’s rate of retention. In its own seemingly small, but unique and interesting way, this lashing is an actual example. On several occasions, I’ve heard adults and older Scouts remark they wish they knew this lashing when they were a Scout or when they were younger—and if they had, they would have done more pioneering. When it comes to pioneering, the Mark II Square Lashing increases Scouts’ willingness, receptivity, and most of all ability to readily become active in this timeless Scouting activity. Troops definitely become more able to embrace the many rewarding Pioneering Skill Challenges that contribute to making Scout meetings fun with positive outcomes.

Compared to the clove hitch method, Scouts love it. It’s much more simple to tie and some declare it’s even easier to make tight. After he attended a pioneering training session at the 2015 NOAC at Michigan State University, celebrating the 100th year anniversary of the Order of the Arrow, one appreciative adult, who had not yet been acquainted with this lashing was heard to remark, “If I gain nothing else during the week, the fact I learned this lashing will be enough.”

The sad part has been, during district, council and area events, simply because they tied a lashing that wasn’t in the handbook, Scouts have been disqualified, penalized, and even insulted, resulting in confusion, hurt feelings, and disillusionment. That’s why, in the 13th edition there should be absolutely no doubt that the Mark II Square Lashing IS a square lashing and NOT an “alternative to the square lashing.” (first printing page 374) That way when it’s stipulated that square lashings are required for a Scouting competition, there’s no confusion! Any Scout or Scouter involved in the building of pioneering projects throughout the year tie square lashings all the time. To most all of them, the Mark II Square Lashing is what is tied whenever a square lashing is tied. Period. For many, that’s how it’s been for all their years as an adult volunteer—happily involved in unit to national-level pioneering programs.

The following is a copy of what was initially submitted through the Boy Scout Development Task Force as an addition to or replacement for page 396 in the 12th Edition of the Boy Scout Handbook. (What’s included in the first printing of the 13th edition has no photographs, but the content is correctly presented.):

Mark II

The Guided Discovery Process

The following piece was composed for a BSA ScoutCast. The concept applies admirably to pioneering when Scouts, who have the proper “tools” and are capable and ready, care to embrace the construction of any-size pioneering project.

splThe Guided Discovery Process is a fancy term for what? Guided Discovery is an approach where Scouts are asked a question which leads them to examine a situation, and then discover the best way to proceed. Put another way, Guided Discovery enables Scouts to think for themselves in order to solve problems and find solutions. This approach is Scout-based. By Scout-based I mean the focus is on the learning and the Scout, not on the teaching and the teacher.

Asking a question is a big part of this process. Asking the right questions takes as much skill as giving the right answers. The idea is, the right kind of question is going to get the Scouts thinking. It’s their thinking that leads them through a path of discovery where they can figure out for themselves what they need to do.

When Scouts are faced with a challenge or have a problem, it’s natural they’ll frequently have there own questions. But with Guided Discovery, we, don’t just spoon feed them the answer. Instead, in order to guide them through this path of discovery, we present them with a counter question—a question which requires them to find their best answer by applying what they know, using their resources, and coming to their own valuable conclusion. And why is their conclusion so valuable? It’s, because whatever a Scout learns through a process of discovery is his. It’s something he’s arrived at through his own efforts. So, he owns it.

Guided discovery as a process. There’s a lot that junior leaders have to go through before they can take the reins and run the troop. All through their ranks and as they mature, Scouts are gaining knowledge. Not just facts, but skills and techniques too. Let’s talk about a brand new troop where we want to enable the newly elected SPL to run things. With the Guided Discovery Process, the first thing he needs is a vision. He’s can be given a picture of a troop that’s involved with an exciting program that reflects what they want, they’re learning, they’re advancing and they’re having a lot of fun. And also, everything’s planned and carried out by them. In this vision, the only time the Scoutmaster’s in front of them is for a minute at the end of the meeting. The rest of the time, it’s all up to them.

Now once the Scout is given a vision like this, the second thing he needs is the strong desire to make it happen. We’ll assume he already has desire, that he’s motivated to be an effective Senior Patrol Leader.

The third necessary thing any junior leader needs are the prerequisite tools to carry out their job. And here, it’s the Scoutmaster’s responsibility to make sure they learn or at least have access to all these necessary tools. For example, the new SPL needs to know that putting up the Scout sign is a means to getting the troop’s attention. This is a basic tool. Now, discovering how to use this tool most effectively, that’s something else. See, this is a technique. And techniques can be gained… through Guided Discovery.

Back to the Scout sign. Like maybe the SPL had a terrible time at a meeting to get his troop quiet when he held up the sign. After the meeting, the Scoutmaster might ask,  “So, how do you think things went tonight? Were you able to control the troop the way you’d like?” And the SPL might answer, “The troop doesn’t ever really get quiet when the sign goes up.” The Scoutmaster might then ask a guiding question like, “Well, when you hold up the sign, what do you think the Scouts see?” Now, after mulling this over, if the SPL just scratches his head, the Scoutmaster might ask, “What do you want them to see?” That question should serve to further guide him and get his wheels turning.

Through this process, he can start zooming in and find his own answer. If he pictures the troop as he’s holding up the sign, he might remember how even some of his own leaders were still carrying on. Ah-ha!  There’s a key! He’s gotta make it clear to his leaders that as soon as he puts up his sign, they need to quickly get quiet and put up theirs. This way, the rest of the troop is going to have a good example to follow. What’s important here is that he comes to the conclusion on his own. He was guided to find a solution for himself. but it’s actually his discovery. See how this is different than just telling him the Patrol Leaders Council leads by example!?

So through guided discovery, a junior leader can find the solution to his problem and gain needed techniques. Learning these techniques by discovering them is a way he can make these techniques his own. You know what I mean? When he finds a solution to his own problem, through his own efforts, he owns that solution!

So, now as he gains techniques, he can use them to do a good job. And this is good. Because doing a good job gives him confidence. And with confidence, a motivated junior leader can start using his own initiative to make everything better. Junior leaders using initiative is amazing. All I can say is, when this happens, it’s awesome! (So the process? A vision, a desire, the tools, the techniques to use them, gaining confidence, and finally using initiative.)

How does a Scoutmaster shift the attention off himself as the leader to the Senior Patrol Leader? When a Scoutmaster is approached by the SPL with a question or problem, with guided discovery, he won’t just dole out hard and fast answers. Instead, again, he asks a counter question. “This is your troop. What do you think needs to be done?”  If it’s not a matter of health and safety, then reflecting the situation back onto the SPL with a question, is shifting the attention off of himself. As for the rest of the troop, have you ever seen T-shirts for the adults with the back saying, “Ask the Senior Patrol Leader?” I even came across a little, round, patrol medallion sized patch for a Scouter’s right sleeve saying, “ask the SPL.”

How does the Scoutmaster instill his knowledge to the Senior Patrol Leader? Well, first, by inspiring him with a shared vision, and of course encouraging him whenever appropriate, then by providing him with all the necessary resources so he can do things independently. Along the way, the Scoutmaster serves as a mentor, but a Scoutmaster really needs to lead by following one step behind. Can you picture that? That means, he knows where the SPL and the troop are heading and what they need, but from there, he enables them to discover things on their own.

Some other examples of the Guided Discovery Process. The December, 2015 Scoutcast addressed the advantages of always having a Plan B.  Plan-B-Prepared. A perfect example of a Guided Discovery question that will get a Scout thinking is: “What if?” Asking Scouts questions beginning with what if is a good way to get them thinking about alternatives and also getting them to develop their troop’s resources.

Here’s a couple more guided discovery scenarios: Recently, I videoed a troop and saw two Scouts carry a third through a 4-foot wide track as part of an activity. Are you familiar with Handicap Obstacle Course? Anyway, these two Scouts really struggled to carry the third. They hadn’t learned the “two handed carry?” or the “four-handed seat?” Now, after their struggle, it could just be explained to them how to do these carries. But, it would be better to ask them, “How would you like to find out how to carry an injured person a whole lot easier, even if he was heavier?” and then guide them: “Where can you see how to do this in your own handbooks?” They’re most likely gonna want to check this out, because after what they just went through, they’re definitely ready to learn something better than what they did, but the emphasis is on them to discover it themselves, and that’s what carries a whole lot more weight. See, when we pour ourselves into finding our own solutions, we become invested in the process. When someone makes an investment, they’re much more likely to feel involved. Like, think about this:  Won’t you be much more likely to read a book if you buy it, as opposed to someone just giving it to you?

Another scenario, and I like this one, is about using woods tools to prepare tinder and kindling and then build and light a fire. As Scout leaders, before a Scout tries anything where safety enters the picture, we must make sure they have the necessary tools. In this case, the prerequisite tools are knowing how to safely use woods-tools, and knowing how to be careful with fire. So, here’s a Scout who we observe knows how to properly use a knife and axe, and he’s prepared all the tinder and kindling he needs to start and feed a cooking fire. He’s got everything he needs, a safe area, a proper surface, a fire bucket nearby, but, before he tries to light a fire, he mixes together all his tinder and kindling into the fire pit, and then, try as he will, each time he puts a match to this mess, it goes out. He finds he can’t light a fire. He wants to, right? But he’s come face to face with a stumbling block, and he recognizes this. He’s definitely ready to learn what needs to be done next. But, using guided discovery means we don’t show him how to do it, and we don’t hover over him providing guidance every step of the way either. He needs to get actively involved with learning how to do this, himself. Remember, with this approach, it’s all about the learning, not the teaching. Guided Discovery happens when we ask questions. Here, we might ask something like, “Why do you think this fire won’t stay lit?” Let him think about this. A follow up question might be, “Looking at all your tinder and kindling here, what will burn the easiest when you touch a match to it?” The Scout will naturally answer the light weight stuff—the tinder. Now, after getting him thinking about what needs to be done, he should be given the opportunity to explain what he’s going to do, and if his explanation is good, then let him do it.

How does a Scoutmaster know what his role is?  In Scoutmaster Position Specific Training, after being introduced to Scouting’s Aims and Methods, right before looking at the Patrol Method, there’s a 20 minute session where the qualities of a Scoutmaster are discussed as well as basically what a Scoutmaster’s role is— what he must be, what he must know, and what he should and shouldn’t do. Also, in the Troop Leader Guidebook Volume 1, Chapter 15, it’s called “Adult Leader Roles and Responsibilities.” It’s very well spelled out.

Are there any resources available to assist Scoutmasters and Advisors on how to facilitate leadership? Beyond Scoutmaster Position Specific Training, Woodbadge goes more deeply into communication and leadership. But additionally, when it comes to assuring junior leaders are successful, I really feel IntroductIon to Leadership Skills for Troops serves as an invaluable resource. There are also some books out there that are all about Youth Leadership Training and Working the Patrol Method, and they’re filled with really good stuff. And, here’s one more good resource—Scout leaders who themselves have well run, successful troops. Most any Scoutmaster or Assistant Scoutmaster, who’s passionate about what he does, loves to talk about his troop, especially when it comes to talking about what his Scouts do to run things well.

Additional Information Let’s refer to the three basic roles of the Scoutmaster (1) of course, is to make sure the rules of the BSA and chartered partner are followed, (2) is the Scoutmaster should be a good mentor and positive role model, and the big (3) and this is where we’re placing the emphasis, is to train and guide Scout leaders. The Guided Discovery Process does this, by asking the right kinds of questions, and then getting out of the way.

1) Guided discovery provides the framework within which, Scouts can lead themselves to realize a vision they have.”

2) Provide the Scouts the objective, equip them with the tools and the skills or the resources to learn how to use them, and turn them loose.”

3) Scouts will learn to lead by practicing leading and experiencing the results of their hands-on leadership efforts.”

4) Why” and “How” questions enhance the Scouts’ ability to make decisions, which is one of the central goals of empowerment.”

Don’t you love the word empowerment? When Scouts run their own troop, they’ve been empowered to do this. A troop run by motivated Scouts who have with the right skills, and techniques, is bound to have good membership and the highest retention rate.

 

Consistency, anyone?

This short commentary is one part surmise and three parts observation. It’s composed of a series of events with a predictable outcome. Except to those familiar with Scout Pioneering, and Scout competitions, the whole scenario will appear obscure. But to the Scouts involved, it’s far from obscure. On the contrary, whenever something like this happens, it’s downright confusing, and without being melodramatic, maybe a little traumatic too. No real names are used in this account, and no fingers are being pointed at any individuals. The characters in stories like this are always well-intentioned and without malice. There are no wrongdoers involved… just victims.

Scout Pioneering is about building structures with poles and rope. They can be useful, they can be for fun, and often they’re both. Knowing how to tie knots and lashings is a basic Scouting skill that’s been a part of our movement for over a hundred years. In all bonafide Scout Pioneering settings, when two poles cross each other, but do not touch, a Diagonal Lashing is often used to spring the poles together. The lashing is so-named, because the wraps run diagonal to the poles. Additionally, those who are experienced in building pioneering structures accept the fact that joining two poles together that cross from 45º to 90º calls for a Square Lashing. There’s more contact between the rope and the poles than with a Diagonal Lashing, and hence a Square Lashing provides a better hold. The Square Lashing gets its name from the fact the wraps run square to the poles. The name has nothing to do with at what angle the poles cross.

Enter “Ned”: Without knowing any better, Ned, a well-meaning Scouting volunteer, reasons quite innocently the Diagonal Lashing should be used whenever Scouts join two poles that cross each other at less than a perpendicular angle. So from this viewpoint, which, because of its name, appears logical, Ned concludes Scouts should use Diagonal Lashings when making an A-frame. After all, the angles formed by the poles are less than 90º. Without any real, hands on exposure to pioneering, he’s not familiar with the fact the lashing is reserved for springing two poles together when they cross but don’t touch. To him, his assumption about the lashing is obvious. He proceeds to write up a description of a Scouting activity featuring his misunderstanding about the use of Diagonal Lashings. Since he’s an intelligent, well-respected Scouter…somehow, it get’s printed, and then again reprinted, in official BSA publications.

Enter the “Raccoon Patrol”: As part of a troop that regularly embraces large pioneering projects, the Raccoon Patrol is well-versed in building A-frames. During inter-patrol competitions at Scout meetings, they do well in A-frame Chariot Races. On outings they build camp see-saws where the roller bar for the plank is supported by two heavy duty A-frames. They have also helped to build several monkey bridges relying on sturdy A-frames as sub assemblies. Belonging to a unit with a successful pioneering program, they’ve been taught to make their A-frames using three Japanese Mark II Square Lashings. In addition to being supported in certain BSA publications, their grasp of Scouting skills stems from Scouters who’ve served on the pioneering staff at national jamborees and who, themselves, have learned from some of the most esteemed Scout Pioneering legends.

Enter “Nancy”: On staff at summer camp, Nancy volunteers to conduct an A-frame Chariot Race as part of the camp-wide skills event towards the end of the week. Her reference material is one of the BSA publications containing Ned’s well-meaning misconception, directing Scouts to construct an A-frame using Diagonal Lashings. Without any real experience putting together an A-frame, she’s basing her thinking on what she has read. Furthermore, since the content is featured in an official publication, she requires each patrol taking part in the activity to build their A-frame in just that way.

Reenter the “Raccoon Patrol”: Participating in the camp-wide competition, the Raccoons confidentially arrive at Nancy’s station, all revved up to be the fastest patrol in the A-frame Chariot Race. Nancy proceeds to explain her rules for putting together the A-frame, which immediately confuses the Raccoons. In their attempt to comply, they bungle the Diagonal Lashings, something they seldom use. At the top, they ask if they can tie a Square Lashing in lieu of a Shear Lashing, and Nancy acquiesces. But, they are further penalized because Nancy insists that if they’re going to tie a Square Lashing, it must start and end with a Clove Hitch. She has never seen or heard of a Japanese Mark II Square Lashing. It isn’t in the official publication she is using as her reference. At that point, the Raccoon’s performance is so poor, they don’t even bother to race. With disgruntled comments, they leave Nancy’s station. They are hurt and bewildered.

Are these kinds of scenarios rare at Scout skill events? The answer is, no. They take place at Boy Scout summer camps, district and council camporees, and OA conclaves. Scouts have been penalized, disqualified, and even politely insulted by facilitators who base their event’s rules on material that contradicts what some may have adopted from other official publications. This is a sad state of affairs. Scouts become frustrated, angry, and disillusioned—feelings that shouldn’t obtain at a Scouting event.

What about this conflicting information presented in different official publications? Are there ways around the confusion? The answer is, yes. At the time of this writing, a national task force is taking steps to assure the publications all provide compatible information pertaining to Scout skills—approaches that are sensible, practical, and proven to be the most efficient. This is a lengthy process and will take time. Everything that appears in official BSA publications should be exemplary, but change happens slowly. Until Scout skills are presented consistently across the board, the following is felt to be an advisable practice: during inter-troop, district, or council events, in competitions like the A-frame Chariot Race, let the patrols complete the challenge in anyway they can. Don’t permit their efforts to be circumscribed by a rigid set of exacting rules. As long as what they build is safe and gets the job done, the Scouts should be allowed to experience success.